THE LEGENDARY TALES OF ARTHUR COLA
The Shamrock Crown
The Stone Cutter Genius
Papa and the Leprechaun King
Book for Children:
Papa and the Gingerbread Man
Papa and the Gingerbread Man by Arthur Cola
(The Screenplay versions of books by Arthur Cola may now be read at http://studios.amazon.com. Just write in the title: The Shamrock Crown or The Leprechaun King in the search box.)
It’s Christmas time at our home officially. How our family inaugurates the season is one of the enjoyable traditions handed down from those days when our five children were youngsters to our four grandchildren since they became old enough to understand the tradition. It begins with the construction of the Christmas village scene which has grown significantly over our 43 years of marriage. It’s my task to erect the village which when viewed takes one from the farm scene to the commercial district to the Cathedral and school square and up to the park area crowned by Windsor Castle. Then off to the other side of the dining room you will see the lake scene with a Papa fishing with a grandson and a Coca-Cola ski resort which has original figures handed down in our family for 100 years. This scene flows into our very own Disney World Theme Park of sorts with its Castle and Train station, Snow White’s Cottage and so forth. In the midst of that setting rests the Gingerbread Cottage and in front of that house is a figure of a tiny Gingerbread Cookie Man.
As I place the figurine in front the festive cottage my thoughts go back to how this gingerbread theme was added to the village. Two of our grandsons (Arthur V and Connor) were involved in a Kindergarten project in which they were to contact family members across the USA. The family would be asked to send a post card from wherever they might be stating that they have seen the famous cookie man. The teacher would then collect the cards and place them across the map thus teaching a geography unit while also celebrating the season. At the time I happened to have been visiting friends in St. Augustine, Florida when I got the call. “Papa, can you find the Gingerbread Man” for our teacher the voices of the same age cousins asked. Though in different schools, they were doing the same gingerbread geography Christmas unit. Now as an educator myself for over 30 years, I readily appreciated what those teachers were doing and so I dutifully sent the post card. But it didn’t end there.
I began to think about how I could bring the legend of the Gingerbread Man alive for younger kids but in a different way than usually portrayed. I was having lunch in my favorite restaurant in St. Augustine named “Columbia” located in the historic district on St. George St. Its Spanish cuisine is to die for especially my favorite:
Boneless Chicken breast breaded, grilled and topped with Rioja tomato sauce and melted Spanish Tetilla cheese. Served with yellow rice.
But I digress. I looked about the restaurant with its authentic décor of those days when St. Augustine was part of Spain. Later it became British and ultimately American. Thus it is truly the oldest city in America being founded in the 1565. The history teacher in me began to reflect on my time in Castillo San Marco of the same time period. The fortress served to guard the city from pirates and the like through the centuries. Today it stands as a national monument and symbol of America’s heritage descended from the nation which sponsored the voyages of Columbus and the discoverer of Florida, Ponce de Leon. As I was deep in thought the lights of the Christmas tree caught my eye. I remembered that it the “Nights of Lights” season in the ancient city. The entire town was decked out in lights to celebrate the holidays. The city Christmas Tree was just being decorated in the square, where the open market still stands with its sad history of also being an area where slaves were sold and its happier days of being a harvest market. Dramatically bordering the village green is the Cathedral of St. Augustine, reputedly the oldest parish in America.
By then, I had decided to create a story which blended history, and the magic and true meaning of Christmas for my grandchildren to enjoy for years to come. At least that’s what I had hoped to do. And so I brought out my journal, from which I am rarely without since I began writing in earnest. Lunch ended and I was still writing as the wonderfully attentive server asked what I was doing. I began to share my idea with her. She was delighted and brought me another diet-Coke with lemon. Tucked in a corner of the restaurant I continued to jot down my ideas for a story which in my mind would be colorfully illustrated with real photos of America’s oldest city and an original artistic rendition of the famous cookie man.
Nightfall had arrived when I strolled out of the Columbia Restaurant onto St. George Street. The “Nights of Lights” lived up to its name as the ancient city street glowed with decorations and lights outlining the historic buildings.
The next day, I was back on St. George Street but this time I was sitting on the patio of the Café Hildalgo, which used to be the consulate building of the nation of Spain. The entire building was donated to the City of St. Augustine by the King of Spain. Part of that structure was this charming café where I sat enjoying my favorite treat of Italian ice cream called, Gelato. It’s proprietors were a couple from New York City. Jack, was a retired NYC fireman who made sure that a memorial to those who dealt with and fell during the 9/11 attack would be remembered. Many were his friends who served with him on that day. So impressed was I by his service that I had to include their shop in the story as my way of saying thank you to his service. By the time I left the pleasant surroundings the story had been completed. Now all that was left was to call our second youngest son, John, who was a graphic design major. It would be he who would create the character and the splendid images of the Columbia, Café Hilalgo, Cathedral and Castillo San Marco, and that of the sailing ship called the “Schooner Freedom.” Normally the ship took tourists up and down the harbor and inlet off the Atlantic Ocean, but it soon became the source of transportation for a certain character called the “Gingerbread Man,”
for my newly created tale for children.
A year later our entire family, including all five children and their spouses and our four grandchildren (Olivia, Arthur V, Connor and Riley), gathered in the Columbia Restaurant to celebrate the publication of “Papa and the Gingerbread Man.” The cultural office of the City of St. Augustine had also arranged for a formal reading of the book by one of their historically dressed historian clerks in the government house museum across from the Cathedral. And so our four grand children were joined by youngsters and their parents to hear the first reading of my story which all began when I was asked by my grandsons to find the Gingerbread Man.
Now here this week all four had watched me place that gingerbread man figurine in the village and then in fine tradition sprinkled the sparkly artificial snow across the length and breath of the village scenes as the Irish Tenors were belting out O Holy Night from our CD player.
May your Christmas traditions bring you joy.
Merry Christmas and may “God bless us everyone.”
“Papa and the Gingerbread Man, an Adventure in America’s Oldest City” is appropriate for children in grade 4 and under. It along with all of Arthur Cola’s books may be purchased through www.amazon.com.